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T.D. v. K.F.

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

November 8, 2019

T.D., Appellant,
v.
K.F., Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lee County; Nicholas Thompson, Judge.

          T.D., pro se.

          K.F., pro se.

          VILLANTI, JUDGE.

         In this paternity action, T.D. (the Mother) appeals the order granting the "Supplemental Petition To Modify Parental Responsibility, Visitation, Or Parenting Plan/Time-Sharing Schedule And Other Relief" filed by K.F. (the Father). We agree with the Mother that the trial court's order is deficient to the extent that it does not identify the steps the Mother must take to regain unsupervised contact with her child in Orange County, and we therefore reverse and remand for the trial court to make additional findings and enter an amended order on this single issue. In all other respects, we affirm.

         The record before this court shows that the Mother and Father were unmarried, but living together, when the child was born and for several months thereafter. When the child was a few months old, the Mother relocated with the child from Lee County to Orange County. The Father, who was named on the child's birth certificate, quickly filed a paternity action seeking a judgment on parental responsibility and time-sharing and a determination of child support. The original paternity judgment, which was rendered on April 3, 2014, gave the parties shared parental responsibility and rotating time-sharing, and it ordered the Father to pay child support.

         On February 28, 2017, the Father filed a supplemental petition to modify parental responsibility, time-sharing, and visitation. The impetus for the filing was an investigation of the Mother by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which was based on allegations of inappropriate sexual activity and drug usage in the presence of the child. While the trial court initially denied several motions for emergency pick-up orders because of DCF's involvement and supervision, on February 13, 2018, the trial court granted the Father's emergency motion for temporary custody, and the child has been living with the Father since that date.

         The evidentiary hearing on the Father's supplemental petition was held on March 13, 2018. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court entered a temporary order that required the parties to continue to follow the safety plan that was in place from DCF. The court ordered that the child remain primarily with the Father but also permitted the Mother to have time-sharing with the child so long as it was supervised by either of two relatives. This temporary order did not restrict where the Mother's timesharing could be held.

         On August 23, 2018, the trial court entered the final order granting the Father's supplemental petition. In the final order, the court gave the Father primary parental responsibility for the child and made him the primary residential parent. As to time-sharing, the final order modified the temporary order by permitting the Mother to have unsupervised time-sharing with the child, but it limited the location of her timesharing to Lee County. The final order contains no explanation for this modification of the nature and location of the Mother's time-sharing, and it provides no steps for the Mother to follow to regain any time-sharing-whether supervised or not-with the child in Orange County. The Mother now brings this appeal, contending, among other things, that the order is erroneous because it does not include any guidance on the steps she must take to regain time-sharing with the child in Orange County.[1] We agree that this error requires reversal for further proceedings.

         This court has repeatedly held that when a trial court modifies a parenting plan to restrict one parent's right to time-sharing, the court must "identify 'concrete steps' in the final judgment that the parent must take to reestablish time-sharing." Perez v. Fay, 160 So.3d 459, 467 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015) (quoting Grigsby v. Grigsby, 39 So.3d 453, 457 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010)); see also Curiale v. Curiale, 220 So.3d 554, 555 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017). As we noted in those cases,

the court must give the parent the key to reconnecting with his or her children. An order that does not set forth the specific steps a parent must take to reestablish time-sharing, thus depriving the parent of that key, is deficient because it prevents the parent from knowing what is expected and prevents any successor judge from monitoring the parent's progress.

Perez, 160 So.3d at 467 (quoting Grigsby, 39 So.3d at 457). Essentially, we have required the trial court to identify what the parent must do to return to the time-sharing he or she enjoyed before the court entered the order that modified time-sharing.[2]

         Here, as in both Perez and Grigsby, the trial court's order places new restrictions on the Mother's time-sharing, and yet it does not identify what steps the Mother must take to reestablish the time-sharing that she had before entry of the order. Because the trial court imposed new restrictions on the Mother's time-sharing, it was required to identify the steps the Mother must take to be able to return to having timesharing with ...


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